Entertainment“Finding something that defines you – even if it’s not flashy –...

“Finding something that defines you – even if it’s not flashy – is the key. It could even be limitation that makes you stand out”: Mustard Plug’s ska punk stalwart Colin Clive on why your playing must have a personality

Since dropping Skapocalypse Now! in 1992, Michigan ska-meets-punk ragers Mustard Plug have been a staple. With their brightly colored mascot, a mischievous mustard bottle, and the scatterbrained shards of guitarism heaved the audience’s way, the band helped define ‘90s pop punk and third-wave ska.

Over 30 years and nine albums deep – the latest being 2023’s Where Did All My Friends Go? – guitarist Colin Clive tells Guitar World: “It’s hard to fathom, but I think our longevity and output has made some sort of impact on modern-day ska and punk.

“I talk to people who tell me we were their first show or the reason they started playing music. It’s humbling to think about that. I know I have bands that inspired me; to be one of those to others is a great feeling.”

Despite influencing others, large-scale fame and grandeur have not been part of the package. None of that matters to Mustard Plug – even though their now classic track, Mr. Smiley, has given them more than their fair share of attention over the years. 

But fame be damned: if you’ve ever taken in a Mustard Plug show in an undulating mosh pit at a sweaty club, you’ll understand the magic of Clive’s four-chord madness. “I think the fact that we consistently have stuck to the genre and are proud supporters of the ska and punk scene goes a long way,” he says.

“Whether you like us or not, I think our dedication and devotion shine brightly. I think finding something that defines you, makes you recognizable, and that you can call your own – even if it’s not flashy – is the key. It could even be limitation that makes you stand out.”

“From our first demo tape to our newest album, people can still hear the same person behind that playing. I think that’s important. A band is a personality – you have to let that show through as much as you possibly can.”

How did Where Did All My Friends Go? come about?

“It’s entirely a byproduct of the Covid years. We finally had time to separate ourselves from our day-to-day responsibilities and focus on songwriting and creating. It allowed me time to figure out what I wanted to write rather than just trying to cram writing sessions between my typical workday and bedtime.”

Did that have you drawing from new sources of inspiration?

“My main inspiration for continuing to pick up the guitar is the creative outlet it provides. There’s something magical about creating something from nothing. I think it’s fascinating and gratifying to start from zero and end up with a song you are proud of.

“Whether or not that song ever becomes popular is irrelevant. I did something I’m proud of, and no one else has ever done,

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